Indian Ocean Piracy: Somalia

Despite a UN arms embargo, arms transfer to Somalia has increased dramatically over the last eight months through smuggling and shipments from Yemen , Ethiopia and Eritrea .

Arms dealers, brokers and transporters from many countries especially South Africa , United Arab Emirates , the Balkans and Eastern Europe – have played a role.

The supply of weapons and ammunition to Somali warlords have been instrumental in atrocities amounting to war, crimes against humanity and seafarers,

Millions have already lost their lives during 15 years of conflict in Somalia .

Armed men are still raping, looting, killing civilians, and hijacking ocean-going vessels – as arms deliveries continue.

Nearly a million Somalis are in dire need of food aid.

But insecurity in some parts of Somalia – including sea piracy that saw two ships carrying food aid hijacked in June and October 2005 make efforts to dispense food and other aid extremely difficult.

We call upon the UN Security Council to renew and strengthen the UN embargo on arms exports to Somalia .

We also ask UN to impose embargo on charcoal exports and foreign fishing vessels in Somalia waters, for it is the source of revenue for warlords to buy arms.

We also call for an Arms Trade Treaty to strictly control the transfer of all conventional arms and prevent them being used for grave human rights abuses.

Sea piracy like Terrorisms is not a matter of concern to one country or a group of countries- it is a global issue that affects us all and we should spare no efforts to ensure that, together we build a robust and resilient defence.

Since the war broke- out in Somalia , armed pirates in speed boats and gun boats have robbed or hijacked ocean-going vessels transiting via Gulf of Aden , Socrotra and Somali coast.

Many Seafarers have been seriously injured or killed along the Somali territorial waters.

Andrew Mwangura

Programs Co-ordinator

Seafarers Assistance Program.





Since the war broke-out in Somalia, ships transiting via Gulf of Aden/Socotra/Somalia coast are strongly advised to be extra cautious, vigilant and maintain anti piracy watches.
Armed pirates in speedboats and gunboats open fire on ships and yachts and rob or hijack them.
Some crew-members have been seriously injured or killed along the Somali territorial waters. Somali Fishing Communities have also suffered a heavy loss of life, fishing gear and environmental damage due to illegal fishing and hazardous waste.
Participation in the sectional supremacy wars in Somali, dumping of toxic waste, illegal fishing and unfair distribution of WFP Food Aid has put many Kenyan Seafarers at risk.
Last year (2004) Kenyan crew of a Mombasa based fishing vessel came back home with spent bullet cartridges fired at their vessel by Militia-men as they went about fishing illegally in Somali waters.
Owing to the volatile situation in Somalia the owners of the fishing vessels have been forced to seal deals with warlords to protect their crew. When the deal between the fishing tycoons and warlords is sealed the latter provides artillery with a Somali operator to be assisted by Kenya crew as they guard the fishing vessel from attacks.
The artillery is mounted on the ship deck for attacking and stopping other Warlords ships in the vicinity from sailing to fish in such lucrative grounds.
This is also for attacking or defending the ship against speedboats of other warlords who are engaged in sea piracy or hijacking for ransom business. Illegal fishing, toxic dumping, under-table deals of Mombasa Ship-owners are contributing to armed conflicts in Sudan, Somalia, Northern Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There have been reports from time to time of dumping of radioactive wastes, hospital wastes, heavy metals like lead and cadmium, chemical wastes and leather treatment wastes.
The issue of hazardous waste in Somalia dates back to the early 1990s, when foreign companies taking advantages of the lack of government dumped unknown quantities of waste.
It costs about US$ 2.50 a ton to get rid of waste in Africa, whereas to dispose off the same waste in Europe costs more like US$ 250 a ton.
In order to tackle the hostage taking menace along Somali waters there is an urgent need for the United Nations, Africa Union and the Government of Kenya to crackdown on all ocean-going vessels operating illegally in Somalia territorial waters.
It hurts to note that presently there are about 800 foreign flagged fishing vessels fishing illegally along Somali waters. There is also a dozen of long-liners and about 400 foreign licensed and un-licensed commercial fishing vessels operating illegally the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Kenya .
Many more Kenyan seafarers have been held for months in captivity after their vessels were hijacked by militiamen, forcing the ship-owners to seal deals with warlords to protect the crew.
The recent hostage taking of 10 crew-men of MV Miltzow brings to about   207 Kenyan Merchant Mariners and Fishers held captive in Somalia in a span of 15 years.
This is the 8th time for a Kenyan owned Merchant vessel being held captive in Somalia . Other Kenyan owned Merchant ships held captive in Somalia in the said period includes M.V. Angel, M.V. Bonsela, M.V. Alpha Mitchel, M.V. Samar I. ,MV Torgelow, MV Semlow, MV Idun and MV Miltzow.
 Normally the gunmen attack fishing vessels fishing illegally in the Somali waters contrary to United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Mombasa based fishing vessels held captive in Somalia in the said period includes: Bahari Kenya, Bahari Hindi, Bahari Kubwa, Aeron, Beira 3, Beira 9, Marine VII, Gorizont I and Gorizont II.
The capture of Miltzow in October, 2005 brings to a total of eight (8) Kenyan Merchants Ships (9) nine fishing vessels and about 207 Kenyan Seafarers held captive in Somalia in a span of 15 years.
Piracy is a universally condemned crime. Under traditional maritime law and maritime law conventions such as the 1958 Convention on the High Seas and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea, pirates have no refuge.
Every country in the world has a duty to suppress piracy, and any country in the world can arrest and prosecute pirates.
The legal definition of piracy that allows for universal prosecution includes some acts that might not be thought of as piracy and excludes some acts that might be assumed to be piracy, by its legal definition it is an act of violence, detention or depredation.
Piracy does not require theft. It must be committed by the crew or passengers of one private vessel against another private vessel.
Pirates must attack from another vessel. The crime must be committed for private ends.
Politically motivated crimes are not piracy. The crime must occur on the high seas.
Crimes occurring within a country’s 12 mile territorial sea or its internal waters are not piracy.
The international law definition is important for the purpose of allowing any country to prosecute pirates.
Acts of violence, detention or depredation are usually crimes under flag   state law and the territory in which they are committed.
In such cases the flag state and port state would have jurisdiction to prosecute the crime.
In this regard we call upon the government of Kenya , Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the International Community to take appropriate action into this matter.
The spate of piracy attacks in Somali needs appropriate action in the region to combat the menace.
Transitional Federal Government of Somalia cannot tackle the problem alone.
There is an urgent need to set up a mechanism of close co-operation and support with the International Community.
Improving maritime security requires the active support, in the spirit of ship’s crew and, perhaps more importantly, ports authorities and shore-based personnel.
We should aim for an environment that motivates all parties to actively participate.
The Kenya government and the shipping industry must guard against complacency on security in port and at sea.
The introduction of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) must not let us make the mistake of resting on our laurels and assuring the work has been completed.
The risks are too high to allow for any hint of complacency and government of Kenya and Somalia must make sure that high levels of vigilance and awareness are maintained and built upon until they become second nature throughout the shipping and port industries.
Terrorism is not a matter of concern to one country or a group of countries – it is a global issue that affects us all and we should spare no effort to ensure that, together, we build a robust and resilient defence.
The level of violence used in pirate attacks appears to be getting worse despite a decline in the overall number of incidents.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which monitors piracy has reported that pirate attacks on merchant ships in the first quarter of 2005 have dropped to the lowest level in five years.
The most recent IMB report indicates that 30 seafarers were killed, 51 injured, 186 taken hostage and 21 missing in the first nine months of last year.
The number of deaths compares with 20 in the same period of 2003. Half occurred in Nigeria and Somalia waters, where gangs using automatic weapons have been targeting merchant, fishing and passenger vessels.
The figure is probably higher, as ship-owners often prefer to pay up to ransom their crew and keep quiet about it. Other attacks in Africa have been reported at locations including Takoradi anchorage, Ghana , at anchorage in Dar-es-salaam , Tanzania at Abidjan anchorage, Ivory Coast , and along Angolan territorial waters.
Piracy is an act of boarding or attempting to board any vessel with the intent to commit theft or any other crime and with the intent or capability to use force in the furtherance of that act.
Andrew Mwangura
Programs Co-ordinator




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